In Genesis 17, God appears to Abram and reaffirms his covenant with him. If you take a look back at Genesis 12, God makes this covenant with Abram saying, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you…To your offspring I will give this land”. Now fast forward back to our chapter today and you find that Abram is now 99 years old. 23 years have passed since God first promised to make Abram a great nation and to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan.
In fact, at the close of Genesis 16, we see that Abram was 86 years old when his son Ishmael is born through their servant, Hagar. And in verse 1 of Genesis 17, we read that Abram is now 99 years old. So, we’re left with this 13-year gap in which Ishmael is growing into a young man, but still Abram only has the one child with the family’s servant Hagar. Abram and Sarai are still without a child of their own.
At this point, they likely assumed that God’s promises and blessing to Abram would pass through Ishmael. Afterall, at 99 and 89 respectively, they were well past the window for conceiving or bearing children. But that’s when God appears to Abram again. And this meeting would be different than those that came before it.
In verses 1-2, God says to Abram, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly.” The Hebrew name that God uses to describe himself here is El Shaddai. This is a name meant to establish God’s power on earth, even over nature, and in the life of Abram and Sarai. El Shaddai means that God is all-powerful, and He is the all-sufficient God.
But notice, God begins this new contact with Abram with two commands: Walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Literally, God commands Abram to walk in the Lord’s presence and to be of such good character before God that no charge of wrongdoing could be brought against him. In the King James Version, this word blameless is translated “perfect.” The root meaning of the word being “wholehearted.” In other words, God is telling Abram to walk before him faithfully and wholeheartedly.
This covenant is unlike other times when God spelled out His promises to Abram. He begins this conversation by placing expectations on Abram to live a life worthy of this covenant relationship with God. Abram would indeed go on to be the father of many nations. Kings would even come from his lineage. To confirm that fact, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. While Abram means “exalted father,” the name Abraham represents the Hebrew phrase for “father of a multitude.” The land of Canaan would belong to Abraham and his descendants forever if he would walk before God faithfully and wholeheartedly.
As a sign of keeping this covenant, God had a new requirement for Abraham. He and every male of his household, born or bought, and every male in all generations to come, must be circumcised. Those who were not circumcised would not be included in this covenant between God and Abraham’s people. And if that’s not enough change in one meeting with God, God then tells Abraham that Sarai’s name must be changed as well. That she will be known as Sarah, and that she and Abraham would have a son after all. At this, Abraham falls down laughing at the concept of him and his wife having a child in their old age. He says in verse 17, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
We read this passage, and it almost seems ironic, right? God begins this chapter with telling Abraham that He is God Almighty. That He is all-powerful. But then as soon as God makes a promise to Abraham, he falls down in laughter not believing what the Lord has just said. It’s easy for us to read this passage, get on our Christian high-horse and think, “Abraham how could you NOT believe God?” But how often do we do this very same thing?
We read about the miracles that God worked in scripture. We see the power that He has to change circumstances in the lives of those around us, but when it comes to us, we doubt. You wonder if God could really do it. Maybe you’re like Abraham and you laugh at the thought of God answering that prayer.
I want to encourage you today to keep trusting the voice of God. To keep believing the promises that He’s spoken over you. To be confident in his covenant with you. Abraham waited 23 years from the time that God first made his covenant with him to see it become a reality. I’m sure there were good days and bad days when it came to his level of trust in God.
But Abraham never stopped listening to God. In fact, at the conclusion of this chapter, you see that Abraham, Ishmael and all the members of his household were circumcised. He didn’t hesitate to begin obeying God. That very day, he went home and circumcised himself and his entire company of males. Abraham’s immediate obedience is the evidence that he trusted the Lord and His word.
So the question we’re left with is: are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to obey God even when the situation doesn’t seem like it’s changing? Are we willing to trust El Shaddai, the Almighty God, even in the midst of uncertainty? My prayer is that like Abraham, you would prove your faith in Him, through your immediate obedie
Was Sarai’s plan successful? Technically yes. Hagar did in fact conceive and give birth to a son - an heir for Abram. But along with that came a whole slew of consequences including a new level of bitterness and frustration - the very feelings Sarai was hoping to “fix” with her carefully considered Plan B.
In my study I read a quote that just spoke to this idea of “hurry up and wait” so perfectly:
“It is for want of a firm dependence upon God's promise, and a patient waiting for God's time, that we go out of the way of our duty to catch at expected mercy. He that believes does not make haste.” - Matthew Henry
Let me just read that last line again - He that believes DO NOT MAKE HASTE!
If you are waiting for that fultilled promise of God - can I just encourage you - keep on waiting! Wait patiently on His will, His plan, and His time. For when we wait on Him the result is full of unexpected blessings (as we will read more about in the coming chapters with the changing of Abram’s name and the birth of Isaac just to name a few) and void of the added and unnecesary frustrations that come along with the results when we go rogue - trying to help God along in the process.
So if you find yourself in a season of waiting - waiting on that miracle, that healing, that answer, that provision promised by the Lord - Keep faithfully and patiently waiting.
I know those are not the words ANY of us are wanting to hear! Because let’s be honest - waiting is the WORST when we are in the middle of it. But friends, the blessing on the other side- the reward of the Lord’s fulfilled promise - it is always, without exception, worth the wait! And while you are waiting, encourage your soul by reciting, memorizing, and praying scripture, God’s promise to us, over your eager, expectant, and, at times, weary heart. Here are a few you could start with.
Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait ont he Lord!”
Psalm 62:5 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him”
Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
And Lamentations 3:25. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”
Friends, I know wating can be a wearisome task. But can I encourage you once again - KEEP WAITING! And while you wait, as Lementations 3:25 said, continue to seek Him! Not seeking His hand or what He can give you - but seeking Him, His face, His glory, His presence. And it is in this seeking that He will bless you with His peace, His protection, His provision, and more of His presence in the waiting!
So “Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait ont he Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)